The celebration of Yenya Punhi, commonly known as Indra Jatra is an amalgamation of numerous festivities.From the dance of Phulakisi ( Indra’s White Elephant), to the chariot procession of the Living Goddess Kumari, along with Lord Ganesh and Bhairav. The spectacular eight days of Indra Jatra, brings together elements from all over the valley of Kathmandu in the unique celebration dedicated to Lord Indra.
Among such great celebrations is the festival of Majipa Lakhey, commonly known as the peace loving Lord Bhairav. As the Indra Dhoj ( Pole of Indra) is erected at Hamuan Dhoka Square, which marks the beginning of Yenya Punhi, the night before an which an auspicious puja is done to evoke the spirit of Majipa Lakhey. The next day the mask of Majipa Lakhey is adorned by a devotee and thus begins the dance of Majipa Lakehy.
In the folklore of the Newar Deities passed on from ages, Lakhey’s are normally considered demon’s who terrorize the people with ill activities. They are normally associated with destruction of farms, stealing children and terrorizing and frightening the citizens. But Majipa Lakhey is the antonym of what we consider a traditional Lakhey. The tales of Majipa Lakhey has been passed down from generations to generations, and with every passing age the love for the deity grows. It is believed that the Lakhey had fallen in love with a girl known as Majipa. Thus, the Lakhey took the form of a human and entered the then Valley Kingdom of Nepal to see his beloved. Majipa later on discovered that the man who she was in love with is a Lakhey, and warned the locals and thus the Lakhey was captured and taken into the Kings Court. The then King after deliberation and careful thought, then made a proposal to the Lakhey, that he will grant him a place in the city if he vows to preserve and protect the children of his kingdom from other demons and participate in the annual Yenya Punhi. The Lakhey agreed to the terms and is believed to have been given residence in the locality of Majipa.
Thus during in the annual Indra Jatra, the dance of Majipa Lakhey is performed by the clan of Ranjitkars of Kathmandu. The dance of Majipa Lakhey is quite unique, unlike other traditional dances which have an essence of Chariya Nritya ( Buddhist Dance Form), or a Bol and Bhaka ( Lyrics recited with Music). The dance of Majipa Lakhey during Indra Jatra features a traditional drum (Dhime) and a pair of Bhusya (pair of cymblas) with straps to fasten around the wrists. The instruments are normally played by the youth of the Ranjitkar clan as well. The Ranjitkars of Majipa tole state that, one does not require to train for the dance of Majipa. It is something that we all have inherited in our genes.
The customary costume of the Lakhey, constitutes of a glorious mask with stunning Abir( Traditional name for red colour). The costume features a traditional red bhoto( blouse)with golden embroidery and a full length skirt. The signature of the Majipa Lakhey is the piece of cloth that is wrapped around and inside the Lakhey’s costume. Coloured in the shades of the rainbow, the cloths ends are griped by the Majipa Lakhey during the dance. This leads to a beautiful display such as of the spreading of the feathers of the peacock. This is normally what the flocks of photographers gathered are normally there to photograph.
During the dance, the Lakhey grips the cloth between his figures and during the dance, the cloth ( dyed with lines of the rainbow) creates a image of wings. Which in association with the sound of the Ghanta ( Bells) worn as a belt bring forth a majestic scene. The dance of Majipa has another interesting character, locally known as Jyalicha( Teasing Child), the muse of Majipa Lakhey. The two in an avid display of cat and mouse tease each other during the dance, chasing in an attempt to capture the child or trick the Lakhey.
The Majipa Lakhey is worshipped by all, devotees try to manage a touch in between the Lakhey’s rich display to take blessings. The dance of Majipa during the Yenja Punhi begins from Majipa Tole, which is taken around the old city routes of Kathmandu. During the main day of Indra Jatra, Majipa Lakhey entertains the crowds of devotees and worshippers who flock to the Durbar Square for the blessings of the Kumari and to witness the chariot festival.
Text By: Shreyashka Vikram Raj Maharjan & Photographed By: Suraj Patrabansha